Blog Entry

Spring position battles: American League East

Posted on: February 10, 2012 10:59 am
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By Matt Snyder


Here we are for the fifth of six installments of spring positional battles. This one is the mighty AL East, the most polarizing and probably best division in the majors.

Previous spring position battles: AL West | NL West | AL Central | NL Central

New York Yankees
Designated Hitter: Andruw Jones vs. Russell Branyan vs. Free Agent vs. Revolving Door

I still feel like the Yankees will sign either Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez or Hideki Matsui -- any of whom likely nails down this job full-time. But it's undecided as of right now, and wide open. Will Andruw Jones or Russell Branyan hit well enough to justify being the full-time DH? Maybe, or maybe they platoon -- as Jones hits from the right side while Branyan is a lefty. Or maybe the Yankees use bench players like Eduardo Nunez, Bill Hall and Chris Dickerson in the field while using starters like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher at DH a few times a week in order to keep guys healthy and in tip-top shape.

Tampa Bay Rays
No. 4-5 starters: Jeff Niemann vs. Wade Davis vs. Matt Moore vs. Six-man rotation

Talk about a nice "problem" to have. The Rays obviously have David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson as the top three in the rotation. While there isn't a big problem with either Niemann or Davis, it's time to find a place in the rotation for Moore and I'm certain they will. The 22-year-old left-hander was awesome in his limited time in the majors last year, including a stellar outing against the Rangers in Texas for Game 1 of the ALDS. Moore's already received the type of team-friendly contract Evan Longoria got when he was a rookie -- as Moore is signed through 2016 with club options running all the way through 2019. So the question is, do the Rays demote either Niemann or Davis to the bullpen or trade one of them? Niemann would be the trade candidate, as Davis also has a team-friendly contract with club options that take him through 2017. And I doubt this happens, but the Rays could always go with a six-man rotation. Seeing how this plays out will a big spring storyline.

Boston Red Sox
Shortstop: Nick Punto vs. Mike Aviles vs. Jose Iglesias

After trading both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie this offseason, the Red Sox are left with what appears to be Mike Aviles against Nick Punto at short. Punto had a good offensive campaign by his standards last season, when he hit .278 with a .388 on-base percentage. He only had six starts at shortstop, though, and his career numbers don't indicate he's worthy of an everyday gig at shortstop. Aviles also only started six games at short last season, and he only hit .255/.289/.409. He did hit well for the Red Sox, but it was a small 107 plate appearance sample. So the choice between Punto and Aviles is dubious defensively and neither is a good offensive option. Enter Iglesias, the dazzling defensive prospect. He's a dreadful hitter -- his line in Triple-A was .235/.285/.269 last season -- but it's not like Aviles or Punto are going to be confused with Troy Tulowitzki or anything. Maybe the Red Sox just plant Iglesias in the nine-hole and enjoy the exceptional defense?

Corner Outfield spots: Cody Ross vs. Ryan Sweeney vs. Carl Crawford and his health

Crawford is said to be questionable for the start of the season after undergoing minor wrist surgery a few weeks ago. If he's healthy, he starts in left easily while Sweeney and Ross battle it out for the right field job. If Crawford can't start the season, Ross and Sweeney are the corner outfielders, yet still fighting for the right field job for when Crawford returns. At some point, Ryan Kalish will return from offseason shoulder surgery and could eventually fight for playing time in right field as well.

Toronto Blue Jays
Outfield logjam: Colby Rasmus vs. Eric Thames vs. Rajai Davis vs. Travis Snider

We know who mans right field, but these four guys are competing for the other two spots. Thames in left field and Rasmus in center seem the most likely, but Davis will get a shot at either spot and Snider is in the mix for left.

No. 5 starter: Dustin McGowan vs. Kyle Drabek

This may bleed up into the No. 4 starter as well, but I'll give Brett Cecil the nod for now, since he is left-handed. The top three are Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez. So, for now, I'll guess the last spot comes down to McGowan and Drabek. McGowan was once a very promising young arm. He went 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 169 2/3 innings back in 2007, when he was 25. He then made 19 starts before falling injured in 2008 and finally just resurfaced late last season -- two shoulder surgeries and one knee surgery later. Does he have anything left? He was good in 12 minor-league starts in 2011, but had a 6.43 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in the small sample of 21 innings pitched for the Blue Jays. Drabek was a top 30 prospect each of the past two years, according to Baseball America, but he fell flat last season for the Jays. He had a 6.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP and more walks than strikeouts for the big-league club. Even worse, he was knocked around for Triple-A Las Vegas, to the tune of a 7.44 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in 75 innings. Walks, again, were an issue with Drabek issuing 41 compared to 45 strikeouts. Prospects Deck McGuire and Drew Hutchison could also figure in the mix eventually, but this feels like Drabek vs. McGowan heading into March.

Baltimore Orioles
The entire pitching staff: Johnny Wholestaff vs. Joe Allstaff

So let's see ... the following pitchers might have a chance at the starting rotation: Zach Britton (very safe bet), Jason Hammel (safe bet), Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Dana Eveland, Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Alfredo Simon and Tommy Hunter. That's quite a mix of pitchers to sift through, but the job isn't overwith yet, because we have to look at the bullpen.

Three pitchers -- Jim Johnson, Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg -- will compete for the closer job, with Troy Patton, Pedro Strop and Darren O'Day also being part of the bullpen mix. Of course, guys like Simon, Hunter and Bergesen will get a shot in the bullpen if they miss out on the rotation, too. There are more (Willie Eyre, Armando Galarraga, etc.), but I already named 17 pitchers vying for 12 spots.

We could probably move Simon and Hunter to the bullpen while eliminating Eveland from the starting mix, but that still leaves eight guys in competition. In the bullpen, Johnson seems the best bet to win the closer gig, with Lindstrom and Gregg setting up. Add Strop, Patton, Simon and Hunter and you have your seven. But, again, we've thrown out Eveland and there would still be three extra starters along with O'Day, Eyre et al on the outside looking in.

I'll say one thing: Orioles manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair won't be bored this spring. Maybe frustrated, but definitely not bored.

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Comments

Since: Oct 12, 2009
Posted on: March 5, 2012 1:10 pm
 

Spring position battles: American League East

The Rays have to decide who will play shortstop. Maybe it will be become a platoon position. The Rays are loaded with players that play two or more positions too. All they need is a little more power and they'll be in the running this year.



Since: Jun 29, 2010
Posted on: February 22, 2012 1:01 pm
 

Spring position battles: American League East

Nothing more to say since everyone is writing off the Sox before the season starts.  Except...the Red Sox was 1 win from being the team in the playoffs instead of the Rays.  The Rays offense is worse than it was last year and with Lackey being out for the season and the fact that the Sox SS and RF holes are the same if not better off than last year with Drew missing a significant amount of time, they are better than last year.  Keep clinging onto the collapse from last year because that is all you will have come the end of the season when the Sox find themselves in the playoffs and one of the other 2 teams gazing from the outside wondering how it could happen.  Just sayin,  Go Sox!


Don't think so. Sox will be much much worse, and miss the playoffs again.



Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: February 22, 2012 11:06 am
 

Spring position battles: American League East

One thing is assured, the O's will finish in last place. Thanks again Angelos for ruining this once proud franchise.



Since: Jan 7, 2012
Posted on: February 17, 2012 5:38 pm
 

Spring position battles: American League East

Nothing more to say since everyone is writing off the Sox before the season starts.  Except...the Red Sox was 1 win from being the team in the playoffs instead of the Rays.  The Rays offense is worse than it was last year and with Lackey being out for the season and the fact that the Sox SS and RF holes are the same if not better off than last year with Drew missing a significant amount of time, they are better than last year.  Keep clinging onto the collapse from last year because that is all you will have come the end of the season when the Sox find themselves in the playoffs and one of the other 2 teams gazing from the outside wondering how it could happen.  Just sayin,  Go Sox!



Since: May 23, 2008
Posted on: February 13, 2012 9:00 pm
 

Spring position battles: American League East

You mean the Colby Rasmus that hit .175 after coming over?  That guy?  Guaranteed to start in center?  Really?  And Rajai (fastest man on the planet) is relegated to pinchrunning while Rasmus runs his 225 obp out there?  really?  You sure about that?


Yup, that guy. Like I said, I wish people that didn't have a clue wouldn't comment....but I see by your Yankee analysis you don't know more than just the Jays CF position so I'll let it go. 



Since: Apr 11, 2011
Posted on: February 13, 2012 1:32 pm
 

Spring position battles: American League East

OK Bomber let me help you out.  No the Yankees are not going to win 162 games this year.  yes they're getting older.  But they fixed their pitching staff, and still have one of the best everyday lineups in baseball.  So, here's your answers:

ARod dh's 40 games.  Hits 30 bombs drives in 100.  Do you really want Nunez in there more than 40 games?

Thir pitching staff is fine.  Nova will be a good 4 and Hughes, if healthy will be the 5.  If not, Garcia will plug in.  Burnetts gone.  the top 3 are great.

Robertson's terrific.  Future closer.  Soriano will be fine.  Mo's last year, he gets through with the occisional bumps and bruises and the Yanks don't miss a trick.

Tex hits 35 bombs and bats .260.  That's who he is.

Jeter eventually moves down to the 6 hole, hits 265 and plays avg defense.  Dh's 30 games.  that's who he is.

Swishalicious will be fine, 25 bombs, .250 ba.  That's who HE is.

Granderson is the real deal.  35 bombs 120 runs 95 rbis.

Gardner is a 1 trick pony who plays a good left field.  And Martin is a very solid catcher.

Any more questions?  Jeez to be a Yankee fan, be locked in for 100 wins and still bitch and moan about the percieved "weaknesses".  Must be nice......


 



Since: Apr 11, 2011
Posted on: February 13, 2012 1:18 pm
 

Spring position battles: American League East

You mean the Colby Rasmus that hit .175 after coming over?  That guy?  Guaranteed to start in center?  Really?  And Rajai (fastest man on the planet) is relegated to pinchrunning while Rasmus runs his 225 obp out there?  really?  You sure about that?



Since: Mar 8, 2007
Posted on: February 12, 2012 9:54 pm
 

Spring position battles: American League East

What if? lmao....that was funny....Yankees are set everywhere but the DH.... Jones vs lefties and ??? against righties. Damon or Ibanez are probably getting the call. Arod will DH in about 20 games or so. Chavez is healthy so getting him to fill in at 3rd should be a popular sign since he was loved in the clubhouse. Looking forward to getting the season started.



Since: Jan 18, 2012
Posted on: February 12, 2012 10:13 am
 

Spring position battles: American League East

  

I just believe that the Yankees have too many questions especially
in their starting rotation that need to be answered on the field before they
can be considered the top dog of the division.

To me Tampa has the best starting staff in baseball and it
has gotten better with Moore. If they had an owner who would give their GM just
half the payroll Mr. Cashman to work with Tampa would be the best team in
baseball for the next 10 years. That is why I was disappointed in the new CBA
didn’t contain a minimum payroll amount that each team has to meet.

 


  




Since: Oct 27, 2009
Posted on: February 12, 2012 8:59 am
 

Spring position battles: American League East

YHATER1 - Thank you for your brilliant commentary with your "what if" section. Now, please, if you would, stop being a coward and put up the teams who you support in your profile and I will be happy to bring about just as many questions about whatever team you like.

The fact is, every single team in the league has holes and "what if's" and we have no idea who fill baseball's version of Jeremy Lin this year or who will get injured, old, bounce back, etc...

As a Yankee fan, the Red Sox must love that everyone thinks they are going to suck or have a down year as it takes the pressure off of them and puts them in the underdog role. If you look at the top 3 of the Red Sox rotation + 1-6 in their batting order and, i'll tell you what, there are a WHOLE LOT of MLB teams who would love to have those problems. 

and BTW - Matt Moore is a stud!! That it is even being considered that Niemann or Davis are even in the same class as him is laughable.  


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